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Pakistan pledges anti-Taliban drive

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RESTIVE REGION: Tribal people at a house hit by airstrikes in Zamzola in South Waziristan along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan in this January 19 file photo. The house was a suspected Al-Qaeda hideout.
RESTIVE REGION: Tribal people at a house hit by airstrikes in Zamzola in South Waziristan along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan in this January 19 file photo. The house was a suspected Al-Qaeda hideout.

Nirupama Subramanian

Musharraf defends peace deals with tribals in North Waziristan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan, which on Monday responded to reports of a "tough message" from U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney to President Pervez Musharraf during his brief visit here, with the declaration that it would not take "dictations" from anyone, has since clarified that it will take "whatever action is necessary" to prevent the Taliban from launching attacks in Afghanistan.

The Foreign Ministry issued the clarification late on Monday. "Pakistan is determined to continue its fight against terrorism, in particular against Al-Qaeda. We are equally determined to curb Taliban militancy and Talibanisation in the tribal areas [of Pakistan]," the Foreign Ministry said.

Tough message

Mr. Cheney was in the Pakistan capital on Monday for talks with Gen. Musharraf. The American media reported that Mr. Cheney delivered an "unusually tough message" to Gen. Musharraf.

The Foreign Ministry clarification said Mr. Cheney shared U.S. concerns and assessment about the situation in Afghanistan with Gen. Musharraf, and that he also praised Pakistan for its "pivotal" role in the "war on terror". A statement from Gen. Musharraf's office provided more details. It said Mr. Cheney expressed "apprehensions" that the Al-Qaeda was regrouping in the tribal areas "and called for concerted efforts in countering the threat".

He "expressed serious U.S. concerns on the intelligence being picked up of an impending Taliban and Al-Qaeda spring offensive against allied forces in Afghanistan," according to the statement.

In the meeting that lasted two hours, Gen. Musharraf defended his Government's peace deals with tribals in North Waziristan as the "way forward" and political steps would help control Al-Qaeda and Taliban activities in the area.

Before Mr. Cheney's visit to Pakistan, the New York Times reported that the White House had concluded that the peace deal had failed in its objectives, that terrorist infrastructure was being rebuilt in the area, and that the Bush administration would ask Gen. Musharraf to show results or face an aid cut from the Democratic Congress.

Gen. Musharraf is said to have expressed concern about a proposed "discriminatory" legislation by the new U.S. House of Representatives on making military aid to Pakistan conditional on its showing results in the "war on terror".

The bill is now before the U.S. Senate.


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